December 26, 2014 marks the 10 year anniversary of the 9.1 Richter Scale earthquake that struck the western coast of the Indonesian province of Northern Sumatra.
It was the third largest earthquake in recorded history and it sent a series of tsunamis surging across the Indian Ocean, some at speeds of 500km/hour, affecting 14 countries.
As the epicentre of the earthquake was close to densely populated coastal communities, the human cost of the disaster was huge: An estimated 230,000 people lost their lives and 1.7 million people were displaced from their homes.
Approximately 5 million people were in immediate need of humanitarian assistance, including food, water and shelter.
A small fishing community in Lhok Seudu, coastal Aceh Bezar, was severely damaged by the earthquake and tsunami. Oxfam visited this village by boat (from Peunayong) back in 2004 and understood the desire of the villagers to stay put, rather than be relocated to houses further away from the coast. The community relied totally on fishing and needed to be situated close to their boats and the sea.
Ten years on and the 50 Oxfam houses that were built have been maintained and modified by the community. The latrines are still working effectively, and the gravity fed water supply on a nearby hill remains a success.
Zuhra is one of the people living in this village that Oxfam helped during this time.
Today Zuhra says: “I have lived in this village all of my life. We all see it as a place of quiet and calm and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. Fifty houses were built after the tsunami but more people have moved here and there are now 60 houses and 225 people living in Lhok Seudu.”
Jim, a photographer who works for Oxfam, visited Zuhra again recently.
“I recognized Jim as soon as we saw him and we remember him coming here after the tsunami,” says Zuhra. It is good that you have come back to see us again. I am very happy with what Oxfam did for us here, and that you have taken the trouble to remember us even though you no longer work here.”
“Our children go to school in the next village, Layeun, and we feel that we have a good life here again now. In the immediate days after the tsunami, we wanted to get away from this place, but we soon all realized that this was our life. We didn’t want to be relocated, we wanted to stay and rebuild here.”
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